Sand play therapy is a recognized therapeutic modality for both children and adults, based on the psychology of C.G. Jung and developed by the Swiss psychotherapist and teacher Dora Kalff. Sandplay therapy establishes a free and protected space, where the complexities of the inner world are explored and integrated into the psyche for emotional healing. Guided by the center of the personality, called the “Self” by Jung, clients place miniature figurines in a small sandbox to revealing their inner experiences. This creates a visual representation of the psyche’s contents and uncovers unconscious concerns that are inaccessible any other way. As materials contained in the unconscious emerges visually and symbolically, it is integrated into a person’s conscious sense of self and can be subsequently activated to elicit changes in attitude and behavior.
In sandplay, inner conflicts and traumas emerge and are worked through non-verbally in the images that appear in the tray of sand. As these inner struggles are resolved, the sandplayer is freed to resume his or her normal, healthy patterns of growth and development. In addition, the silent, symbolic work of sandplay penetrates to the depths of the personality to experience the Self directly. Carl Jung described this as an essential step for healthy psychological development.
For the therapist, the effectiveness of sandplay therapy arises out of an understanding of Jungian psychology and the archetypal and personal symbolism that appears in the sand. Knowledge of symbolic language creates a foundation not only for sandplay therapy, but also for dream analysis and all non-verbal therapies involving art and play. It provides a way for material from the unconscious to become visible, healed, and integrated into the consciousness, thus allowing life to be lived in a more conscious and authentic way.
Through the use of sandplay, the client creates a world corresponding to his or her inner state. In this manner, through free, creative play, unconscious processes are made visible in a three-dimensional form in a pictorial world comparable to the dream experience. Through a series of images that take shape in this way, the process of individuation described by C. G. Jung is stimulated and brought to fruition.